About every 15 to 19 minutes whatever you are watching on the tube is interrupted by commercial breaks. Some might find this an irritation and others an inconvenience, but what most do not realize is that a lot of thought, psychology, time and writing has gone into these 30- to 60-second TV spots and above all, money.
Paper is cheaper than film, and it all starts with a team of writers and a stopwatch, and a little silly acting in the writer’s room, and a session of quid-pro-quo -- no kidding.
Been there done that.
The humanistic tendency to remember something off the wall funny, odd or cute is the first tricks in the writer’s bag of tricks. Short sweet and to the point.
The first thing a commercial must have is a product. The first thing you as the potential consumer should realize is that the product does not necessarily have to be a good one. But necessity is in the eye of the viewer. The product must be made to appear as a, “I can’t live without it” item or service, and have a distinct recognizable personality of its own. The words that you hear from your TV are a very carefully crafted sales pitch, from what is said to how loudly it is said, and how it is worded, or “pitched” to make you remember the product.
A memorable commercial is a mix of visual entertainment and product promotion. The finest examples are usually aired during annual events like the Super Bowl. These commercial spots can cost into the millions of dollars and feature stars of music and film, but the real stars of these productions are the products.
The key to an effective commercial is in the writing. Ad writers have to write catchy phrases and promote product recognition and fit it into 60 seconds or less, and make it necessary to have. This is all gleaned from studies of the target audience or demographics.
Demographics is the study of who the American people are, in any one particular area of the country. This consists of lists of what you buy. What is your educational level, and what you do for a living, and can be broken down by area, what people are buying, what is a hot selling item?
If you were to travel around the country you might notice that commercial spots play differently or not at all in certain parts of the country, and that some commercials for area chain stores, play only in the areas that the store chain is open. There are more intellectually integrated commercials to the north, east, and west of the country, less so on local channels in the south. Cable TV runs ads universally. The ad writer usually stays within a format for commercial writing and must boil down the demographic information to write an effective commercial for a target audience.
The baseline rule is Rule of 7 and10. This rule is writing the piece to withstand 7 no’s and mention the product a minimum of 10 times both in written logo or spoken words. Now fitting all this into a 60 second or 30 second spot is a challenge to say the least.
For an example how do you sell something as mundane and common place as soap? Twenty-mule team Borax is one of the iconic pictures that comes to mind. Coca Cola is another, bringing the world together campaign. Lately bath products have taken on a vain and sexy tone, and as the old ad men say, “Sex and vanity sells.” The aim is to get the public to talk about the product. A personal endorsement between friends sells products, bottom line.
Product placement is another way items get sold. “Product Placement” is a term used by movie and TV show producers. A product seen and used in a movie or on TV is a seller. People tend to want to use or consume products used by the stars. Watch any movie or TV production and the products that you can readily recognize are placed there for a price, Product Placement. Companies vie for this product placement as soon as they hear about a project being “Green Lighted”. Product placement also refers to a product being written into the script as part of a spoken line of dialog. A mention of a “live product” that is not “licensed” by a company for a movie or TV project it can cause havoc in post-production.
In closing I would like to add that picking up a stint in commercials is far more lucrative then trying to become a movie or TV star for a professional athlete or an Olympic Gold medalist. A line or two of dialog, or no dialog, versus acting out a part can pay big money. Kellogg’s Wheaties, Subway, and Coke, and Pepsi for example have all had their product pitched by Olympians.
So, buyers beware, what you see is not necessarily what you get. It is all written to sell.
Oh by the way, the Borax commercials made a certain president a household name, years before he even ran for the office.
Now who would that be?